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Brooklyn 4, Us 3, Shugar 2, Shugar Soapworks 2, New York 2, Michigan 2, Facebook 2, America 2, Charlie Ryan 1, Shannon 1, Jerry Sill Berman 1, Ron Dueppen 1, Us An E-mail 1, Siemens 1, Lo 1, You Need 1, Phil Town 1, Fernandez 1, T. J. Maxx 1, Donald Trump 1,
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  MSNBC    Your Business    News/Business.  

    April 25, 2010
    7:30 - 8:00am EDT  

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♪ (announcer) right now, all over the country, discover card customers are getting five percent cashback bonus at home improvement stores. it pays to get more, it pays to discover. somewhere in america... the slightest breeze harbors immense power. the tallest buildings leave the lightest footprints. a fifty-ton train makes barely a mark on the environment. and a country facing climate change finds climate solutions. somewhere in america, we've already answered
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some of the nation's toughest questions. and the over sixty thousand people of siemens are ready to do it again. siemens. answers.
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how do you keep something like bowling cool? sometimes success means striking the right cord by reinventing your business. that's coming up next on "your business."
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hi there, everyone. i'm jj ramberg. welcome to "your business," where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. reinventing the game. that is probably one of the best ways to describe what could be happening at your local bowling alley, bowling a strike or in some cases, mine, a gutter ball, the snazzy shoes is still part of the fun. there's a renewed focus on upscaling the experience. >> everyone likes to bowl. >> people come here for the bowling. they stick around. they have a great time. >> people always want to have fun. it doesn't matter if there's a recession or booming economy. >> it's an industry that has been spared the worst of the economic downturn.
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it's largely because the game isn't just about bowling a strike or a spare anymore. >> when i considered the customer experience to be the most important marketing aspect of the business. >> that's been the focus for tom shannon, ceo of strike holdings since he bought new york's bowlmor in 1997. he's a firm believer, league play, broken machinery and fake wood paneling are long gone. now he wants his customers to get the best service that money can buy. >> i just said, look, the bowling works, now less wrap it in something that makes sense to people now. >> bowling is just part of a larger customer service. >> you can eat, you can drink. the customer self-selects. we don't require they order food or anything else. they want it, we offer it. we took a core activity people love, we made it nice. service intensive, great design. great food and beverage offerings. that's the model, pretty simple.
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>> the bowlmor staff juggles private parties, corporate events and people who like to bowl a few games. shannon does his best to make sure his customers get topnotch service. >> all these operating details. getting the food out at the time the party wanted it reliably. then, of coursish the taste and quality of the food. all that stuff. everyone likes it. that's what works. >> the success of bowlmor is undeniable. it's still the highest grossing bowling alley. that's been a key factor in his decision to further expand his brand. >> bowling is a sport. it's fun yet challenging. it's satisfying and it's social. you all sit together. it's communal. you eat, you drink, you watch each other do it. it just works. we've marveled at how bowling is unlike any other activity. >> across the river in brooklyn, one of the industry's newest additions is giving something
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else a try. while there's food and fun at brooklyn bowl, there's also rock and roll. >> we add a lane, hanging out with your friends, turn around, watch a concert. >> peter schapiro and charlie ryan used to own a new york club. that experience came in handy when they decided to turn the bowling alley into a concert venue. >> we wanted live music and bowling. doing it in one space is something no one has done before. >> most customers are here to bowl. integrating music has been a challenge. an act that will attract a variety of crowds. >> wednesday, a hip-hop, thursday a jam band, on friday more electronic or funk or soul. we mix it up. >> that's the cumbersome part. that's the difficult part. have you to promote every night differently because it's going to draw different poem. >> despite their successful track record, there were a few concerns about the pairs' plan.
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friends and family had their doubts especially since they were opening their doors in the middle of a recession. >> when we first told them the idea, they said it's not going to work. you can't have bowling and music. >> people thought we were a little crazy or ahead of the curve, especially locating in a place. >> in order to keep people coming they knew they had to provide fantastic service. partnering with a local brewery and a city restaurant group was just the start. the rest is all about making customers feel welcome. >> we're going to find people who really want to engage with them and are solicitous of what they need. the thing that is really great is trying to keep customer service at a high level, keep everyone focused on that. >> the customers seem to notice at brooklyn bowl and bowlmor, they keep coming. so much so the downturn has turned into an upswing for both of these businesses. >> at the end of the day going bowling isn't very expensive. you don't need financing to do this. everyone can do it. it's local. you don't have to travel to do
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it. if you put all those things together, it's a pretty resilient business model. >> everything old can be new again especially if you know how to keep things fresh and relevant. let's go to this week's board of directors. reinvention could be jerry sill berman's middle name he's founder of corporate turnaround. joining us investment adviser phil town, author of best selling book "payback time." great marketing, even from this piece made me think, i've got to go bowling. i didn't know when is the last time i went bowling. >> such a cool thing. this is a good deal. >> the whole thing about the downturn, it's the time to change it up. >> it's not the old bowling alley, funky place or teams, something like that. now, up in michigan, i was with my kids and they said, let's go
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bowling. we stayed like eight hours. it was a karaoke thing, food, a bar. >> is there anything to be wary of. now they have the extra expense -- for instance brooklyn bowl, bands and promoting it. what i thought was hard, when he said promoting it differently every night. >> when you used to go bowling, you'd go bowling or a cheeseburger. now they are making money on food and beverage. they are making a lot of money on drinks and able to supply that to the band. >> it's an entrepreneur's dream. it's very dependent on your skill level and feeling it out. that's where the scary part would be, just like restaurant, just like bar business. you better get it right. you better know who your people are coming and cater to that group. in michigan, karaoke. where these guys are, ain't karaoke, a rock band. >> these guys used to run a
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club, a trendy club that maybe lost their luster. >> this is anti-trendy thing. where we were, it was such a range of people, kids in college all the way up to people in their '70s. the most anti-trendy place i've ever seen. >> i think they probably after a certain hour don't let the kids in. 21 and over after a certain time period. you don't have the kids running around. then it becomes a social thing. it's not just bowling, bowling and a social thing. >> so smart, all these different pockets of revenue instead of just bowling. >> look, it's bowling. i mean, we're not talking something trendy here. it's bowling. >> the whole happening, someone my age, i grew up with black light bulbs, ultraviolet lights. that's what they have here. it's a step back in time for people like myself. >> this is a real good model. this is a simple, local business that has got big, long roots. you don't to reinvent.
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>> you don't have to invest that much. you already have the space, maybe build it out. they partner with people, they have thought investors. it seems really smart to me also. >> like it. >> me, too. sometimes changes in the marketplace force an owner to reinvent his business. that was the case with one manufacturer who lost his biggest clients to overseas competition. he went through some rough times. but in the end, he was happy he was forced to change. ♪ soap and water >> dan shugar still shudders when he remembers the phone call to his company. >> it was a shock. you can imagine the phone going -- what just happened. i remember turning to my wife and saying, what are we going to do? >> what happened was his soap manufacturing company shugar soapworks lost its largest customer to a china-based competitor. >> we were realizing we weren't competitive in the marketplace.
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our hotel customers were saying, your prices are too high. >> ron dueppen was you shugar's brother. he bought soap from shugar soapworks then sold to hotels. >> it was excellent soap. >> that wasn't enough to save the partnership. when fernandez learned he could source the same product he was getting from shugar for 25 to 30% less overseas, with the loss of the vegas business, shugar soapworks revenue plunged from $5 million a year to less than half of that. >> within one fell swoop, it really dropped significantly. >> things were not looking good for the company, but shugar wasn't ready to close the doors yet. >> instead of sitting around poor me, why did i lose that? could i have done something better? no. what you have to look for is what's in the future, what's next. ♪
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>> shugar took a hard look at the market and decided he needed to reinvent his company. he knew the hotels were easily able to replace his soap because his brand didn't mean anything to their customers. so he launched a new product line under his own brand name. it now sells at big lots, odd lots and t. j. maxx around the company. he created a relationship creating soap lines for trader joe's and the 99 cent store. >> china told me i can't compete productwise, it must be how good my soap is, how good a quality the product is. >> he also reviewed costs and started cutting laying off three-quarters of his staff. >> it's 1:00 in the afternoon. we're looking around your factory and it's quiet, all the machines are off. why don't you run it all day? >> well, we run until 1:00 for a specific reason. the main reason is for electricity.
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we are allowed lower rates since we don't take electricity after 1:00. ♪ >> after 18 months in the red, shugar soapworks is profitable again. while he expects to see more bumps in the road ahead, shugar feels confident because he survived this, he can handle almost anything. >> i believe i walked through the fire and i made it to the other side. you know, i believe it made me stronger. i'm glad it happened to me. i'm glad i'm able to sit here and talk to you with a smile on my face saying we made it. we made it. as we've seen, to stay competitive in this challenging economic market many entrepreneurs are forced to have a back-up plan. when a company needs to change on a dime, so do its employees. our next guess has tips to help your business stay reinvention ready. pamela mitchell founder and ceo
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of the reinvention institute, also author of the book ten laws of career reinvention, essential survival schools for any economy. i love the name of your company, reinvention institute. >> thank you. >> one of the things you say is people need to create an annual reinvention plan, which for a company, let's say, is doing well, might be hard enough to sit back and say why not do this. >> the thing about it is, having a reinvention plan is like having insurance for your business. like shugar, one day he got a phone call and saw half his business disappeared. if he every year sat down and said what would i do if my primary business went away, he could have been prepared and launch something right away. >> it might give you the focus of seeing what you like about your business, another way of looking a your business. >> also beginning to lo at what area should you go into, coming
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at a different angle. >> or closing down. >> start with mini reinvention. >> we're all busy as business people. you can't do something wholesale right off the bat. where are the little areas you start testing your ideas, seeing how they go, then putting it out there. it's about laying the groundwork before you start to do something wholesale. >> that's easier because the idea of totally reinventing might be overwhelming. a way to test the ground. >> you don't need another project on your plate like that. >> create a reinvention board, board of people or on the wall. >> create a reinvention vision board, there you go, where you want to head. but it's about cross pollinating ideas. it's not just your traditional advisory board, you want people outside your industry help you look at your business in a different way, talk about different ways to move into different areas and combine things. >> do you have anyone on the company on your board or just you and outside people.
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>> you should have your key staffers as well. when the company needs to reinvent itself, so do the people. you want your key staffers in the mode of career reinvention. how do we move ourselves and the company forward. >> this moves into your next point which is ban excuses from yourself, from your employees. >> exactly. because reinvention is very much of a challenge. we're resistant to change. we like to do things we've done. especially we're busy. we don't want to do it. i don't have time. you've got to ban excuses. as i said, reinvention is insurance. it's important. >> you have plenty of time when your company is out of business. you don't want that to happen. >> exactly. >> give it time. nothing happens overnight. >> that's exactly it. the thing is, it's preparation and opportunity. you can control your preparation but you don't control when opportunity shows up. you've got to make sure you have enough time to let something play itself out. don't try to reinvent yourself when you're in a crisis mode like shugar was. by that point you're scared. so you want to actually just let
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it run. >> do you feel most people come to your institute when you're in crisis mode. >> yeah they do. they have the pressure of trying to earn money, where should my business be heading. it's much more difficult to reinvent yourself when you're in that mode as opposed to when you're thinking on an annual basis and put your mini reinventions in place. >> do you think of it more often than not as a big reinvention of your company or a series of small things. >> here is the thing, i think the myth of reinvention is it is some wholesale change. in actuality it's about changing and tweaking your company to move with the market. it's not a big wholesale change. you want to look at the little things that can open into something major down the road. >> i think that's a great thing for people to remember. again, as i said, so it's not overwhelming. >> exactly. >> it's doable. >> pamela, thank you so much. this is great advice. >> thank you j.j. >> when we come back, what business is venture capitalists putting this money into. and your questions, including,
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one, how a small business owner with limited resources should handle an employee's maternity leave. i own a small law firm and i'm a much better lawyer than i am an accountant. so, when i wasn't getting paid as quickly as i would like, i did what came naturally. i threatened to sue. turns out, that's not the best way to keep clients. so i went looking for answers online at openforum.com it's a place where i can talk with other small business owners like thomas and connie and learn about tools like acceptpay. it's a new way to bill online that can help me get paid much faster, without the need for any legal intimidation, which gives me a warm fuzzy feeling... sort of like these super comfortable socks made from the soft, supple wool of alpacas. looking good. thank you. owners are asking questions. owners are getting answers. and american express open
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is building the tools they need. tools like acceptpay, which lets owners take their accounts receivable online. acceptpay. invoice digitally. get paid faster. only from american express open. are you interested in having the "your business" team give your business a makeover? send us an e-mail. the address is yourbusiness@msnbc. tell us about your company, what challenges you're facing and what you've done to turn your business around. the address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. venture capital funding certainly hasn't been immune to the down economy but there are some bright spots. here are the five hottest sectors for attracting investments courtesy of forbes.com. number five on the list,
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electronics. always looking for that one piece of hardware to market to the masses. four, mobile and telecommunications. the surge and popularity of smartphones a have startup in high demand. number three, soft mare, the demand remains huge. number two, internet-based ventures. social networking and online dating are two particularly hot fields. and the hottest sector for funding at the moment is health care. medicine, surgical devices and electronic monitors are all attracting attention. it's time now to answer some of your business questions. phil and jerry are back with us once again. the first one comes from a public speaking coach. >> i have a website, i have facebook, i have linked in. i am wondering when you know it's time to hire a public relations firm to grow your
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business. and when you decide to do that, if you decide to do that, what do you look for in a pr firm. >> interesting. we always talk about how these social networking places are great because they are free. they are not free. they take a lot of to do this stuff for her? >> first she wants to know when should she do it. i say last. make a profit first. make sure you're on the map. make sure you can afford a pr firm. most of the people that have pr firms, they're bigger companies. they can afford to spend money on those things. as a startup entrepreneur, i don't know i'd go straight to a pr firm. >> you have something to say. you have to have something these people can work with. pr money will be happy to take your money and pound the single bricks. it doesn't mean you're going to get anything good. you have to do most of the work yourself to kind of set it up. in fact, most of the people i nknow in my business, i do a lo of public speaking, they do most of their own pr setups and have a pr person kind of follow up on it. >> the other problem with pr when you're a small company, you may not get the bang for your
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buck and it's hard to know that in the beginning twh you're hiring them. >> i think what she should do if she should hire a pr firm is to go to someone who specializes in her industry, someone that has already done what she needs to do. >> let's move on to the next one. we have a question from frank and i wrote in saying i just found out one of my employees is pregnant. we don't have a maternity policy here. i can't afford her to be out for a long time and pay her. i want to be fair. what should i do? it's interesting because for small companies, in essence, there's no maternity policy. >> what there is is an exchange of value. one person's fair is another person's vast injustice. it's just a matter of what the value is of this employee. if they're very low paid, they're going to be gone for four months, then, no, i don't think he has to continue that stuff at all. if they're a valued employee, gone for a month, then, yeah,
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you have to hang on to them. it's a value exchange. >> you have to create a policy that's going to go forward. you can't have a different policy for the receptionist you do for your right-hand person. >> i don't think he's obligated to do anything. it depends on the state if there's some law that says he has to. i think he is obligated or at least should keep her job open for when she comes back and if she comes back. another thing that he could possibly do is have her work from home if she wants to do some type of flex time and, you know, you can work from anywhere virtually now with a computer depending on what business it is. >> i totally disagree with you about the policy has to be the same for everybody. i do that a lot. that's one of the beauties of running this small business versus a monolith. i think you should be able to say this is the policy or this is what i'm going to do for you and here is why. >> in essence what i'm getting from this is it's a hard answer and you have to look at your own company and figure out what you can do without and for how long, the value of your employee. >> as a entrepreneur you should be able to do what you want to
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do. unfortunately, that's not the way the law works. >> let's move on to the next question. this is the founder of a cosmetics line. >> when you're growing a company, is it affordable to use a celeb sflit. >> it's affordable if it's free. somehow you have a friend who is good friends can somebody. >> make sure they're using your product otherwise you're going to get a pretty bad bang for your buck. >> how do you get to them? >> charity auctions are a phenomenal way to get to a celebrity. find out what charities are going on in your area, which ones are auctioning, go there, put your product into something they can auction off and you can meet people. >> if it's free, it's great. as a startup company to use a celebrity is very expensive unless you have tremendous funding and that's part of your marketing plan, which is interesting, if you're using a celebrity's name and that's the name of your line, that's one thing. otherwise it's going to be too expensive.
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>> it's hard to get to these people. let's move on to the next question. this is about the ownership of ideas a. viewer writes in, if i have a unique idea for a website, how do i patent or copyright the idea? we get this question all the time about patents and copyrights. >> a website can't be patented unless you have some type of technology that goes along with the website. you can, of course, copy the words on the page and you can do that in the easiest way to do it is go online and look for the u.s. patent and trademark office and they have the forms there. i wouldn't do that personally. if i were looking to copyright something, i would go to a patent attorney. they do a lot of research to make sure what you're filing makes sense and it's going to be approved in the end. >> you can trademark yourself, your web name, a lot of things you can do. i kind of disagree about going to the government place because they're government places and i hate them all. so what i would suggest is go to legalzoom and they have a
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section that's just patents, trademarks and copyright and they have everything right there for a very low amount of money. >> we talk about this a lot on the show and people have different views whether you should incur the time and expense to go through the patent process and that's something you have to ask yourself in the beginning because it's not something you sign up and get the patent tomorrow. it is years. >> all you get is the right to go to court. >> and then you need 0 to defend it. >> that's why you see pat pending all the time. >> patent pending for years. finally a question about access to funding. we just started our business a year ago in real estate investment. how do we get credit without using our own personal credit? >> you don't want to use your personal credit. >> well, that's what they're saying, they don't want to. >> if you're a entrepreneur, good luck, particularly in this market, not using your personal credit. donald trump is using his personal credit. you're going to use your personal credit. you might think about doing a limited partnership which is you bring in capital from outside investors, have them on the line
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for their capital. that's one way to get yourself off the hook. another thing you can do is use owner financing instead of going out and going through a bank you might be able to get own er financing on the deals you do particularly in this market. >> this question bothered me because he's claiming to be a real estate investment firm with no financing. you're not in the real estate business until you have your financing backing you. it doesn't make sense. you're putting the cart before the horse. >> okay. well, thank you so much for all of these questions. very helpful, you guys. we want to tell you out there that if any of you have a question for our experts just go to our website. the address is openforum.com/yo openforum.com/yourbusiness. there you can hit the ask the show link to submit a question for our panel. again, the website is openforum.com/yourbusiness or e-mail us your questions or comments. the address for that is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. now that we've gotten advice from our experts, let's get some survival tips from small business owners just like you. >> being an online business, most of our successes come from
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social marketing, facebook, twitter, that type of thing. we've learned a lot about search engine optimization and getting to the top of google has definitely been the biggest payoff for us. >> surround yourself with experts. i don't know anything about taxes. i don't know anything about creating a website, but what i did is i went out and i found the best cpa i could find. i found the best graphics designer i could find. i found the best web person i could find and i said this is what i want. now make me look like a rock star. >> when it comes to the final business decision, experts can provide the information, but only you really know how to use that information and twh to use that expertise in the way that's going to benefit your business and your clients. is your company's home page up to speed? if not, our website of the week can help you find out what's going on.